Why You Should Give Money Directly And Unconditionally To Homeless People

Why You Should Give Money Directly And Unconditionally To Homeless People

Who are you to judge what they do with that cash?

Give your cash directly and unconditionally to homeless people.

Don’t just buy them a sandwich. They’re not four. They have the right to spend their money as they choose – and it is their money, once given. Don’t just give to people performing, singing, or accompanied by a cute dog. Buskers deserve a wage too, of course. But homeless people are not your dancing monkey and they shouldn’t have to perform to earn your pity.

Don’t second-guess whether people are “really” homeless. Those who think begging is a shortcut to easy money should try humiliating themselves daily in front of thousands of total strangers who won’t even look at them or acknowledge their existence. It is gruelling, soul-destroying work. If people are desperate enough to beg, they need it.

Don’t just give to people who ask you directly, but to the guy with his head in his hands and a Styrofoam cup on the ground in front of him. Give to the woman who’s blind drunk. Give to the guy with meth-rotted teeth. Give to the spice addict who can’t look you in the eye.

Many street beggars are addicts, yes. Do addicts not deserve food? Wouldn’t you want to drink if you were in their position? Don’t you get drunk every weekend to cope with work stress anyway? Who are you to tell them what to do with their bodies?

As the founder of User Voice, a charity led and staffed by former homeless addicts, says: “If your money funds the final hit, accept that the person would rather be dead. If your act of kindness makes him wake up the next morning and decide to change his life, that’s nice but not your business either.”

Of course, it is true that your drinking habit and theirs are fundamentally different. Addiction is rooted in material circumstance – alcohol is the obvious example, but think how many skiing accidents end in courses of opiates far stronger than anything you’d find on the street without any long-term compulsion developing. It can only be tackled by raising people out of poverty, and a brute-force severing of cash flow is not going to starve people into seeking help from authorities they know will not, or cannot, help them.

Yet this abject morality, which says we must push people to rock bottom before we are able to help them, is seized on by austerity governments always greedy to do less. In fact, studies show begging emerges in the “middle-late stages” of homelessness, once people have already exhausted other options. The rock bottom has already been reached.

Eighty per cent of homeless people in the UK experienced no support or advice the last time they were moved on by police or council workers. When the government claims that most people begging on the street are refusing better help, what they mean is the help on offer is not adequate.

Homeless people need free, state-provided housing and fully-funded psychological care. What they get is £538m annual cuts to mental health services and austerity measures driving them into arrears with private landlords and on to the street.

The average life expectancy of a homeless man in London is 47. For women, it is 43. This is lower than the general life expectancy of any nation on the planet. These lives will be improved by systemic, not loose, change. 

In the absence of an adequate government response, charitable giving and hostels remain lifesavers to many thousands of people. But big homelessness charities are already receiving millions yearly, while those deemed impossible to help die outside. When I speak to rough sleepers, it is local communities, squatters and grassroots organisations like the London-wide Streets Kitchen which they credit with keeping them alive.

“There is no need to beg on the streets in 2017,” leading London homelessness charity Thames Reach claims. “Hostel rent is covered through Housing Benefit [and] it is an urban myth that if you have no address, you cannot claim benefits.”

The charity, which is primarily funded by the government, makes no mention of the many gatekeeping barriers vulnerable people must cross to secure benefits and a stable hostel place.

Most damningly, they do not mention the fact that the foreign nationals who make up over half of London’s rough-sleeping population cannot claim benefits to access the hostel network at all. Rather, Thames Reach and other top charities shop homeless foreigners to the Home Office to be deported.

It is those same government-funded charities that push the narrative that “kindness kills” as they tout for your donations. Do not believe them. Apathy and austerity kill. Your kindness saves lives.

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Sydney's Addison Hotel Opens Its Doors To Homeless Youth In Australian First

Sydney's Addison Hotel Opens Its Doors To Homeless Youth In Australian First

The Addison Hotel will get young people off the streets and into safe accommodation. 

 

Using an empty building to house the homeless ... it is a pretty obvious idea but one that has never taken off in Australia.

For the first time, a vacant hotel just out of the Sydney CBD has opened its doors to young people who do not have a roof over their head.

The Addison Hotel in Kensington was destined to lie dormant for the next year while a development plan awaits approval, but the building owner saw an opportunity to accommodate those on the street.

The hotel will be a place of refuge for people needing crisis accommodation or just a safe place to live and study while they stabilise their circumstances.

Building owner TOGA is providing the 42 fully-furnished rooms, each with their own bathroom and kitchenette, revenue free and hopes other property owners follow suit.

 

Managing director Allan Vidor said there were many empty buildings across Sydney that could be immediately available to the homeless.

"We had this empty building sitting here and we thought there has got to be something we can do with it that will create some good," he said.

"No single level of government or service can tackle youth homelessness — innovative solutions must be borne from innovative collaborations between public and private sectors.   "Everyone deserves the opportunity to have housing."

A one-stop shop

As well as a place to call home, those staying will have their best chance to get back on their feet with free access to food, clothes and laundry facilities.

A 'take what you need, pay what you can' supermarket run by OzHarvest has been set up in the lobby and will only stock rescued food.

A clothing rescue service, Thread Together, has also opened next to the hotel and provides brand new clothing to those doing it tough.

OzHarvest kitchen at The Addison
 
The rescued food supermarket run by OzHarvest has been set up in the hotel's lobby. 

 

Orange Sky Laundry, the world's first mobile laundry service, will visit The Addison once a week to offer its free services.

It is an all-encompassing set up which is aimed at restoring dignity to young people who are faced with issues such as unemployment, family breakdown and mental illness.

Critics have raised concerns putting young people together in a facility is a big risk with anti-social behaviour likely, however those behind The Addison Project actually believe the opposite.

Orange Sky Laundry set up at The Addison
Those taking refuge at The Addison will be able to Orange Sky Laundry facilities once a week.

 

"We don't share the view that it's a risk," said Rebecca Mullins, chief executive of My Foundations Youth Housing, who are managing the accommodation.

"We believe young people together are able to support each other and understand what they are going through."

Professor David MacKenzie, researcher on homelessness with Swinburne University, said the negative stereotype that youth would cause trouble needed to be quashed.

"I have a lot more faith in young people," he said. "They can do a lot more positive things than negative."

Social housing allocated to very few youth

Forty-three per cent of Australia's homeless population is under 25 years old, and in New South Wales, young people hold less than 2 per cent of the 140,000 social housing tenancies.

Room in The Addison
 
There are 42 rooms now open for those needing crisis accommodation or temporary shelter.

 

Many have their access to education and training cut off and one in six are on their own.

Professor MacKenzie said 'pop-up' shelter idea was innovative and important.

"We need early intervention and rapid rehousing ... we don't actually have a youth housing sector housing in Australia," he said.

"We shouldn't have homelessness in Australia, not in a country like this."

When a young person becomes homeless it costs $15,000 per person per year in health and justice services, he said.

So far, 56 household groups, either singles or women with children, have come through The Addison and have been provided with 511 nights of accommodation since opening at the end of January.

Family and Community Services (FACS) has control over 14 of the rooms for emergency accommodation for up to 28 days, and the remaining 28 rooms are affordable transitional accommodation and $150 a week.

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Stories From Young Men Behind Bars

Stories From Young Men Behind Bars

We have spoken about them a lot - when they've jacked cars, burgled homes or rioted - but rarely have we heard from the teenagers in our juvenile jails.

The students of Parkville College, the school that educates young people in detention, wrote letters that formed the school's submission to the parliamentary inquiry into youth justice centres.

Here are their voices.

Some were as young as 11 when they were first locked up

"When I first came into Parkville I was 11. It was 2015. I was so scared I thought I was going to get raped. I have spent most of my life inside."

"I was 12 years old in 2015 when I first came to Parkville. I was scared. My time here has affected me because I have spent more time in Parkville than outside."

Food, education, jobs, structure, family. Many didn't have that on the outside

"School on the inside is great, my first time in three years. I finally get an education, I can't wait to  continue school on the outside."

"Parkville makes it worse because you like it in here ... You get food on the inside, kids don't get food on the outside."

"If you grow up in a family or community where crime is normal and violence is normal, you grow up thinking that's what life is meant to be like. By the time you realise its not, you're kind of already in that world and you're doing things that are really hard to stop doing."

"Sometimes you know you're never going to have anything, because you've got no job, no hope and so sometimes you just take things."

"There's a thrill in doing this stuff. We're teenagers and we don't always think; we just go along with stuff and if you haven't really had anyone to show you the right way, you do things the wrong way."

"You want to fit in, to belong and if that's what all of your friends are doing, you do it  too… things start small and it gets really hectic really quick."

"I know what it is like to grow up living with parents and getting hit on a daily basis."

It can get violent in there

"I have had people bullying me and hitting me and sexually assault me."

"Can't escape bad models, bullying and being transgender in a female's unit...  NO!!! NO!!! There are no good things about being locked up."

"Having to think every second 'am I going to get jumped?' or 'can they me my real friends?'"

"I have witnessed a lot of violence in here and this made me think more violently."

Many were on drugs on the outside

"You use drugs and then you need money to get more so you do awful shit that you  shouldn't and then you feel ashamed of what you've done and so you think it doesn't  matter any more so you do more of the bad shit that makes you feel shame and then you end up in here."

"There are some good things about being locked up, yes, to help you get clean from drugs."

Many were on drugs on the outside

"You use drugs and then you need money to get more so you do awful shit that you  shouldn't and then you feel ashamed of what you've done and so you think it doesn't  matter any more so you do more of the bad shit that makes you feel shame and then you end up in here."

"There are some good things about being locked up, yes, to help you get clean from drugs."

There are good things - like school and psychologists

"School on the inside brings a new challenge everyday and it gets exciting and makes you wanna learn about things you have never learnt before."

"I see a psychologist and I believe they help with self‐confidence and how to make you help yourself as well as others. The psychologists come every week to see you and they are there to talk to you when you're in need or need someone to talk to."

But some feel really alone

"I always feel sad here. I feel like I'm losing my family every day I'm in here – like I'm disconnecting from them while I'm here. I feel lonely."

They are listening to what's being said about them on the outside

"Young people who commit crimes are put in stereotypes in the media – we sound worse than we really are. They make it over dramatic. They stereotype black people, Aboriginal people."

"I personally feel like the media label us as terrifying and bad people and that people should fear for  their lives...I made a mistake...when I leave I am going for my  learners, getting a house and I have a job. So am I really a bad person? "

"Everyone says were all bad people. We're not; we just do silly things when we're out. I don't feel like my voice is being heard really, no one really cares. That I'm nice but I just do silly things when I'm out." (Grevillea unit)

They have good ideas about how to make it better on the inside

"Critical incidents could be avoided by workers using verbal communication when de-escalating.  The safety and security of staff and young people at Parkville and Malmsbury can be maintained by changing the strict rules, [and with] more DHHS across the centre more."

"If there were riots, I would take the kids out that caused them and I would put them in a unit with nothing, no matter what culture they are."

"It would be helpful to have a legal aid lawyer on site at Parkville or Malmsbury to talk about our crimes and give advice to us."

"I think bigger premises and more units would be helpful. More staffing so we are not locked in our cells all the time. No staff = no school."

They also have plans for their own futures

"I'm going to strive to face big challenges and courses that others would never think of and would also influence clients on the inside to become better on the outside."

"I now want to go live with my mum and do school."

But for others, that future is harder to see

"I don't think about how I want to be on the outside. Because there are too many things here, bothering me, stressing me out, that I can't plan for my future. In here it's the hardest, because everyone's trying to be the  hardest, the toughest."

"All the exact same people and situations are still there; nothing has really changed ...When you decide while you're at Parkville that you're not to get caught up in all that shit again and then you try when you get out but you fail; that is the worst feeling, you feel like nothing and then you don't care anymore, you just give up."

"Thank you for reading my story," teenager in Malmsbury.

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